netcdf4 configure/build issues

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Here is a summary and proposal for what should be done about netcdf4
configrue / make with hdf5.

I'd like to get consensus on this.


Configure/build netcdf4 Issues
Robert E. McGrath
Elena Pourmal
James Laird


The general question is how we want the netCDF-4 source code to be
built by users. The particular technical challenge is how to link with
HDF5 in the right way. I assume we would like this to be as fool proof and easy for users as possible.

There are two approaches that have been proposed:

  1) set up netcdf4 configure/make to use the 'h5cc' script
  2) set up netcdf4 configure/make to use regular compilers, with
     '--with-hdf5' to point to HDF5

We currently have a version of #1 implemented.  It is working, but
there are at least 2 irritating problems that have yet to be addressed.
We do not know how difficult it will be to fix the problems.
However, most users will not have trouble with them.

#2 is thought to be fairly simple, but we don't have a detailed techincal assessment.

We have the option of staying with #1, and fixing 'h5cc' at some
point in the future, or changing to #2.

Known Problems with H5cc

1. 'h5cc' has all the warnings enabled

This bug has been reported several times, and really should be fixed.
The fix requires modification to how the h5cc script is generated--
probably some sed or other shell hacking.

2. Make in sub-directories fails in some cases

Automake doesn't understand 'h5cc', and is not doing dependency checking
correctly. In some cases, make fails because of this.  This has been
a pain for developers, but is not an issue for most users.

There are at least possible fixes:
  a) the autoconf mail list suggests fixing 'depcomp'
  b) disabling dependency checking
These have not been explored in detail, and we don't know how difficult
it will be to fix this.

We should realize that there may be other problems we don't know about.

Not using h5cc

The alternative to using 'h5cc' is to rewrite the netcdf-4 autoconf and
possibly other files to accept the '--with-hdf5' argument, and do whatever
is necessary to find the right compilers, libraries, and settings.

Ideally, this would be able to used information from, say, libhdf5.settings,
to create the right make and link steps.

It is not clear how much work this rewrite would be. Without trying to do it, we can't really know if this is easier or harder to use than 'h5cc'. Proposal

We will to distribute netcdf-4 designed to be built with 'h5cc'.

Essentially, keep it the way it is implemented now.

We will address the problems with h5cc at some time in the future, but
not right now.

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